Bear Stearns

On Monday, a single, ringing court decision gave hope that Wall Street will finally be held to account for its role in causing the financial crisis. Federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff’s opinion may soon force the SEC, the federal government’s investment regulator, to take big banks to court, rather than continuing to come to terms with them in out-of-court settlements.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:]  Felix Salmon is chiding me for an "unconvincing" critique of Sebastian Mallaby's recent book on hedge funds, More Money Than God. He says shifting risk from banks to hedge funds would in fact make the system safe for failure:  Scheiber is worried that people like Morgan Stanley’s Howie Hubler — who lost $9 billion at what was essentially an in-house hedge fund — will simply now repeat their failures at standalone funds, if banks are barred from taking those kind of bets. But that misses the point.

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Parsing the final compromise.

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The Breakup

Did Obama just dump his best friend on Wall Street?

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Click here to read Margo Howard’s first dispatch from the Blagojevich trial. Click here to read her second. A note about Mrs. Blagojevich and the bathroom, and Mrs. B. and the courtroom. I encountered her in the loo again, only there were more people than last time. I did hear her say, once more, that it’s tough to hear people tell lies about you. I guess that’s how she responds to “how are you?” Also, I wrote yesterday that she would not be allowed in the courtroom once the trial began because she would be a witness.

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Worth Reading

Ex-Bear Stearns fund managers acquitted of subprime-related fraud charges. Why big news on diminishing oil supplies didn't move markets. Under Dodd's plan, commercial banks would lose ability to name Fed directors. Mark Thoma has a new blog. Treasury a little too selective in releasing loan modification stats.

David Wessel has a column in today’s Wall Street Journal laying out three approaches to solving our Too Big Too Fail (TBTF) problem. The first two amount to different ways of “busting them up,” as Wessel puts it.

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Just when our biggest banks thought they were out of the woods and into the money, the official consensus in their favor begins to crack. The Obama administration’s publicly stated view--from the highest level in the White House--remains that the banks cannot or should not be broken up. Their argument is that the big banks can be regulated into permanently low risk behavior. In contrast, in an interview reported in the NYT this morning, Paul Volcker argues that attempts to regulate these banks will fail: “The only viable solution, in the Volcker view, is to break up the giants.

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Although higher capital requirements do seem like a no-brainer, Andrew Kuritzkes and Hal Scott offer some words of caution in the FT: The five largest US financial institutions subject to Basel capital rules that either failed or were forced into government-assisted mergers in 2008 – Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and Merrill Lynch – had regulatory capital ratios ranging from 12.3 per cent to 16.1 per cent as of their last quarterly disclosures before they were effectively shut down.

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Laurence Grafstein: What financiers owe the public.

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